Most stories about the latest poll from the Pew Research Center focused on the growing popularity of the Internet as a news source. But the headline for me was the enduring popularity of television news, both local and network or cable. The trouble is, I’m not sure I believe it.
Sixty percent of Americans told the Pew researchers that they get news from the Web on a daily basis, making it the third most popular source and beating out both newspapers and radio. About a quarter of those surveyed say they read news on their cellphones. And the vast majority of news consumers get their information from multiple platforms every day. Only 7% rely on just one type of source.
But according to the poll, television news remains considerably more popular than news on the Internet, especially local TV news. The Pew study found that almost 80 percent of Americans get their news from a local TV station’s newscast every day; almost three-quarters said they watch network or cable news.
That’s surprising, because other surveys and ratings reports have shown a steady decline in viewership for both network and local news over the past 20 years. The Pew Center itself reported in 2008 that just over half of those surveyed reported watching local TV news daily; 40% said they watch cable news and 30% watched network news. It doesn’t seem possible that daily viewership could have almost doubled in two years, does it?